7 Resume Mistakes That Will Make Hiring Managers Reject You in Seconds

Frustrated woman looking at laptop


Profile Picture
Move up in your career
June 23, 2024 at 7:47AM UTC

Applying for jobs is never an easy process. With technology, finding and submitting job applications is getting easier, but it has also led to more competition. As a result, most job openings are flooded with applicants: the average job posting receives 250 responses, and only about five of them get asked to interview.

Keeping up with the massive flow of candidates requires an efficient review process. As a solution, much of the job screening process is now automated. Still, even when a person is reviewing applications, they are spending on average less than ten seconds on each applicant before making a decision.

With so little time spent on each application, hiring managers are looking for quick and easy reasons to discard a candidate and reduce the pool. For candidates that want to break through and get their resume seen, avoid these seven mistakes that HR departments will not tolerate.

1. Ignoring the application instructions.

An easy starting point for staying on track is to follow the instructions that you’re given. Hiring managers put a lot of thought into creating application processes, and each component is there for a reason. Make sure to provide all the information asked for in the correct format, abiding by word limits and answering prompts thoroughly.

If you leave a field blank, it looks like you forgot to fill it in, or decided it wasn’t important, neither of which are favorable first impressions and could be grounds for elimination. If something does not apply to you, then explain why not or put “not applicable” in the field to show that you have seen and addressed the request.

Many candidates do not want to repeat information that is already on their resume, so in question forms, they might write “see resume.” This will eliminate you from the running, so even if it’s tedious, be sure to re-write information as necessary.

2. Making sloppy mistakes.

Almost every hiring manager says that careless mistakes like spelling errors, typos, or punctuation mixups are the cause for immediate dismissal. These mistakes indicate a lack of attention to detail, which signals a lack of interest or cares for the work that you are submitting, and are a bad sign for the work you might produce as an employee.

Though everyone makes mistakes, this is not the moment to hope for understanding, and these are easy ones to avoid: proofread your application, then proofread it again. Ask a friend to look it over with a clear set of eyes. Then, when you’re sure it’s perfect, submit it knowing that HR will be looking at your qualifications rather than your typos.

3. Inconsistent wording.

Another way to get your experience across and make your resume easier to read is to use consistent wording. It’s best to start bullets describing your experience with verbs to highlight your actions. Since readers are skimming resumes, you want to put the most important part of each bullet in the first five words or so, and keep bullets from being too long.

However, you decide to tighten the content of your resume, make sure that you are doing it the same way in every section.

4. Forgetting keywords.

Your main goal as a job applicant is to convince the company why you would be a valuable addition to their team. To do so, you have to be specific and make sure to use the keywords in the job description — this will help you beat ATS systems as well.

Often, people will find a company that they love and want to be a part of, and apply for any open role, or several roles at once, in hopes of getting in the door.  However, it is impossible to be convincing about your qualifications if you’re not responding to a specific role, so focus your search.

5. Focusing on responsibilities not results.

A common mistake made in writing resumes is to focus on the duties of each job. The result is that the resume reads like a series of job descriptions, which doesn’t tell a hiring manager more than they already know from your title. Instead of listing the tasks that you performed in a given role, focus on what you achieved in that role: show, don’t tell.

Use numbers to quantify your achievements and provide detail, and use strong verbs to describe your accomplishments. By using words that show action, you communicate your initiative and agency, centering the application around the abilities and skills that you will bring to this next job.

6. Oversharing.

If HR is only spending about six or seven seconds on an application, they don’t have time to read much. Though it may be tempting to include as many details and experiences as possible, it is much better to keep it brief. Resumes should be no more than two pages and usually just one is best.

One way to pare down your application is to cut out experience that isn’t relevant to the job you’re applying for, or limit the jobs listed to the most recently held positions. Keeping it simple is also beneficial because it makes it easier for the hiring manager to skim and take away what is most important to them, instead of having to search for the most applicable skills within a comprehensive list of experiences.

7. Getting too creative.

Though you want to make sure that you distinguish yourself with your application, you also don’t want to get too crazy. It’s a question of balance and consistency, and your experience accomplishments should be the focus of your application, rather than flashy formatting or fonts.

When the format and design are really unusual, ATS systems can’t read them and will reject them automatically, so your resume may not even make it to the stage where it’s being reviewed by a person. So, unless you’re a designer, you want your resume layout and type to be clean and simple. Fancy fonts, bright colors, and unusual formats are distracting and detract from the content of your resume, which hiring managers are only spending a short amount of time on anyway.

There’s no question that the job application process is competitive and complicated. Every company is looking for something different, and there is no easy formula for success.

However, using these seven tips, you can avoid some of the most common application errors. Avoiding these distracting mistakes will keep the focus on the expertise and abilities that you bring to the role, and keep you in the hiring pipeline until you get the perfect offer.

— Jennifer Sethre


This article was originally published on Ladders. Jennifer Sethre is the Founder and CEO of Intry.

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always